Keeping Up…”I Haven’t Died Yet.”

The quote, from Michael Arrington, is a bit sobering. Part of An interesting article from The New York Times…In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop…it really drove the point home to me about what to avoid in the “new media” world.

As much as I struggle to keep up with the vast amounts of information available at the click of a mouse, those generating it can struggle even more. The article points out the same thing that I recall Bill Gates mentioning in an interview, you worry every minute that someone will beat you to introducing something new.

I often worry about what is the next post going to be about? What can we create that will push our business to the next level? How many people have the same idea? This question alone is usually answered by a quick Google…roughly a bazillion. As I’ve mentioned here before, I invented Pandora…a mere 2 years after it was introduced. Who knew?

How do you keep up? The answer is…for most of us…you don’t. Look there will always be someone, many someones, who really get a rush out of the first to invent, the first to introduce, the first report. They think it’s fun! These people love doing it and there is no reason you should not love letting them. Especially when you can be the one that can help explain what that “first” means to the other 99.5% of the world. The fact is that if you’re reading this blog…any blog…you are already ahead of many in the world. Once you get into “the internet thing” it’s very easy to forget that for those over 25 or 30 (and that’s a lot of people) are not scratching the surface of it.

Can’t keep up with it all? Don’t try so hard. Find what you love and follow that. Use the technology open to you to do it efficiently if you’d like, but love it. Hang with others who have some similar interests, but more that are different. Count on them to expose you to new things. Maybe take a day or two a week to “search” for the latest…but don’t just sit in front of the computer or TV working on that special blue tint to your skin. Get out there and tell the world what you know. You might be surprised that you are the first…and maybe the best.

Word of Mouth 2.0

In an article published in the New York Times there is evidence that, despite what your father or grandfather mumbles (from under his hat while his turn signal continues to blink…for miles), young people do give a crap! They just go about it differently.

The internet and all of its social elements have driven those under 30 to sources other than TV, radio, or newspapers for that in-depth information. I’ll leave it to you to decide if their version of “in-depth” is good or bad.

The focus of the piece was on politics but it underscores the overall trend towards “…replacing the professional filter — reading The Washington Post, clicking on — with a social one.” when it comes to news and current events. More specifically, “According to interviews and recent surveys, younger voters tend to not just be consumers of news and current events but conduits as well — sending out e-mailed links and videos to friends and their social networks. And in turn, they rely on friends and online connections for news to come to them.”

This point was echoed at a recent media forum I attended that pointed to the trend of going straight to the source, bypassing the context and analysis that journalists provide.

This is the part that needs a bit of attention. As with any word of mouth activity, there is always the chance of the correct information becoming distorted or deleted as it travels. Remember the old telephone game where you would whisper a phrase to someone next you and they would in turn do the same to the person next to them and by the time it got to the last person in the line it would make no sense. (We would laugh and laugh…ah…good times.)

For better or worse, journalists, commentators, editors, etc. do serve as the gatekeepers of the information. We have come to count on them. That’s not to say that these gatekeepers always use the best judgment in getting info to the masses. We liberals point to Fox News and Rush Limbaugh while conservatives point to…well…everybody else in media.

With out any kind of oversight, will the news and information be correct? Is word of mouth always the best way to get that information? Is this good or bad? The statement from an Intelligence Group focus study subject saying, “If the news is that important, it will find me.” is, you have to admit, just a bit troubling, if for no other reason than incredibly  myopic.

The debate will continue (and be the basis of many more forums) but, as it does, Word of Mouth 2.0 is happening. People younger than I are looking to their peers for information. And I kind of like it. If nothing else, it’s healthy and it’s good for “traditional” communicators and media. The crowd is getting the chance to have much more input and it makes those that thrive on the “one to many” paradigm to rethink it.

Just be sure the facts are correct before you send the message to the next recipient….and tell your grandpa to shut off his turn signal.

Time to Launch A New Site (Or “Hey, we’ve got a URL, let’s put on a show!”)

I’ve added to my list of “things I do everyday that most people do for a living but I make no money on”. Much to my wife’s chagrin I have joined with some other new media geeks and am contributing content to a site dedicated to innovation in our home state of Minnesota. (More in another post that is much less sarcastic.) And, adding to her look of “What the *#@ are you doing?” I’m about to return a call from a fellow
Dad about launching a site for our son’s swim team.

What can I say I love this stuff! Basically, why on earth would a guy who loves communication not take advantage of every opportunity to participate in it? Okay, there’s that time thing.

A few key things I learned in the last 24 hours…

Keep it simple…stupid. (Also known as KISS.)

Set expectations. You mean I’m not going to change the world?

Do something you love…but don’t forget to let out the dog.

Use the Web, Luke! (Best said in your James Earl Jones voice.) I found a great post by Leo Babauta on Freelance Switch highlighting 8 tools to help you manage your time.

Take heed and be productive. Now about that making money thing…

Futuretainment or…Presentainment?

I caught a great post by O’Reilly’s Robert Kaye the other day. Robert’s coverage of ETech in San Francisco included a rundown of Mike Walsh’s Futuretainment: The Asian Media Revolution presentation. Here are some highlights on the topic of how the young people in Asia consume media compared to the good ol’ US of A…

Because many of the kids were born in the post Mao era, they have no idea what media was like as it evolved in the US and Western Europe. (CD’s? Never heard of ‘em.) Mike points out that most Asian’s use the internet for their main source of entertainment and they get most of that on their cell phones, not at the desktop. They have no problem creating multiple identities online, are more “group” focused yet seek to find a higher status for themselves in those groups on line.

Here’s something that we all have seen in movies but probably never really grasped…”Asian cultures blend low tech solutions with hi tech solutions seamlessly. For instance, while nearly everyone has a mobile phone in their pocket, bamboo is still used to build scaffolding for buildings.” Wow!

What all this increased “density of information” has lead to is Asians being able to grasp many more pieces of information at once and the culture actually cranking out so much more content. This is fascinating stuff.

As I consider all of this I’m struck by the word “futuretainment.” It’s quite easy to point to all of this and say this is the future of media in the US. To some degree, I believe that to be true. But, I’m not sure our culture will evolve the same way. Consider the circumstances for this “revolution” in Asia, specifically China. Here are a people who for years were cutoff from the advances (a very subjective term) that we experienced. It’s like the lid being lifted off a barrel in the rain. Suddenly all of this history, these advances, and this growth just start pouring in on a people that were familiar with something so simplistic. Of course there is a need to quickly decide what to adopt and what to scoop out of the barrel. If they didn’t they would surely drown. So what you see are a people hurdling over some of the stuff that has become part of our culture, in effect being unburdened by history. They don’t need to or even can stop at the CD era if it’s already passé. Why spend money on or time sitting in front of a computer when they can take it all with them on a phone.

In the US, for better or worse, we as a people are naturally going to be a bit slower to adopt. In many cases we are content with where media is and see no reason to change. For the purposes of example, we’ve spent our money on the CD and player or the computer. We’ll get to the mp3 player and smart phone; just give us a bit more time. Damn, this history of innovation can be a real burden, can’t it?

So while the “media revolution” is raging on in Asia, it may not necessarily be the future but the present without all the encumbrances of a past. Who knows, the Asian youth may decide that creating new IM accounts, assuming different identities for different purposes and precipitating virtual characters landing sponsorship deals is a waste of time and return to more simplistic “bamboo-centric” pursuits. That sure would allow all of us to stop paddling so hard in our barrel.

You Speak. Who Hears? Who Listens?

As I spend more and more time peeling back the layers of communicating in the new millennium I’m always impressed at the amount of tools available to send a message or start a conversation. With so many gadgets and applications pouring out of the cloud it’s clear you need to investigate using some of them to reach your audience. Whoever that audience is, customers, friends, relatives, even pets can be reached in so many ways.

But, as exciting as it is to see all of these innovations develop, if you want to be truly effective in your communication, you can’t get swept up in the buzz of it all. Remember…remain calm.

The fact is that you need to have a clear understanding of who your audience is and what tools they use. If you try and reach them through a medium they don’t use…well…the point would be?

For example, my wife and I are spending more and more time texting each other throughout the day. It’s a great way for us to juggle the ever changing plans between our work, kids, and friends. It’s quick and unobtrusive. In fact, it has saved my butt more than a few times. See, I tend to space off phone messages and it’s easy for me to just text my bride as soon as I hang up the phone. The point is that we are starting to text so much I’ve thought about using Twitter or AIM or some other service. Then I realize my wife has no desire to use any of the tools. Because a) she doesn’t sit at a computer all day and b) her cell phone doesn’t have a data option. Yeah, I know all these services have a SMS option but the fact is…why bother if SMS works just fine?

And that’s the point; your audience has the same attitude. Unless it will profoundly improve their lives they’re just fine with where they are right now. Unless what you are trying to communicate is really revolutionary, you must reach them through the channels that exist and the ones they use. Don’t start the process of building a relationship with someone by introducing a new technology or changing their habits. They will better listen to your message in the environment they are comfortable in.

Your path of least resistance is to find out what they use. Who are you trying to reach? How old are they? How interested in your message and how do they hear about it? Believe it or not, adoption of new things is a relatively slow process. In most cases slow enough to date your message if you try using the “next big thing”.

That means…research…at what ever level you can. It’s better to spend the money and the time to get to look at the habits of your audience than spend the time and money whizzing in the wind.  Over the next weeks, as I continue to try and keep up, I’ll start tearing into many of these tools and we can find out some of the best and worst ways to reach your audience. Do remember, what may be ineffective today may be the “text messaging” for next week. Our goal is to use the right ones at the right time…now.

“Poll Dancing” Revisited

With most of the “blogosphere” abuzz about CES I thought I’d
post about anything but…


The holidays kept me from following up on this but I do want
to share results of the first ever RemainComm reader poll. I asked
the very basic of questions as it pertains to this blog. “When you can’t talk
to someone face to face, what device do you use most to communicate with them?”
Here’s how it broke out:

Phone (land

    Cell phone




    Web Applications
(Twitter, etc.)…….12.5%

No real surprises I guess. Between text and cell it looks as
though you are a mobile bunch. In addition, if you’re in the “old world” communication
business you may want to rethink that gig as the next “Wichita Lineman” or pent
up loner at the post office.

Okay, so our ‘far from scientific” poll points out that Cliff
can spend more time on the bar stool at Cheers. Might this also present an
opportunity the next time you want to get someone’s attention? Next time you
fire off an e-mail to make a pitch or submit a resume; consider sending a
letter as well. Imagine the delight of someone who sees an actual letter in
their dwindling pile of direct mail ads and bills that is their daily delivery.
You never know, you might be the only one who does it.

There’s a new poll posted so…have at it!

And now some “Poll” Dancing.

Now that I’ve got you all a twitter…(Those of you who landed here while searching for literal “pole” dancing…check your spelling and move along.)I’ve launched a polling application on the site. So…care to “dance?”

I think the first poll, that will be here for a week, is a great starting point. It only makes sense to see how you prefer to communicate. If you don’t communicate (and that’s not one of the answers) please start.

In the coming weeks I’ll ask for your thoughts on all sorts of things from communication to media, to the latest on Britney…(Hey, she hasn’t done anything whacky lately…hope she’s okay.)

Feel free to wake the kids, alert the media, tell your friends! You can even copy the poll. I’d love your input!

To Blog or Not to Blog?

If you follow this blog regularly, and as you’ll find out
later in this post, regularly is a term I use loosely, you’ll note that it’s
been awhile since I’ve commented on anything.

Don’t get me wrong, as many of my closest friends know, I’m
never at a loss for “topics” that must be commented on (He says with just the
right amount of sarcasm.). It’s just that lately; I’ve been wrestling with what
topics are “worth” commenting or reporting on.

For example, I noticed that shortly after the conclusion of
the Podcasting and New Media Expo, known by it’s acronym as PNME, the
organizers decided to drop the “P” or podcasting from the name. Ok, now the
acronym for the New Media Expo is NME. NME…en-em-ee…enemy! Oops! I’m not sure
this is what needs to be communicated by “new media.” So I’m thinking a post
titled something like “When Acronyms Attack” could be good, but is it?

Another example…Recently the National Association of
(Yep, radio again) announced that it was launching the Radio 2020 initiative.
The idea is to focus on keeping radio relevant for years to come. I don’t think
the window is that wide, let’s go with Radio 2010. Clearing that hurtle is
tough enough. Nah…that topic just seems so…well…done. Besides, it’s too easy to
be cynical and that’s been way, way over done.

So, I’ve shied away from posting because I want to provide
content that is much more actionable as well as entertaining and not just
musings. I’ve found, with all of the information that pours down on us every
day it’s difficult enough to keep up without me adding to it. And yes, in
addition, I now know the meaning of “writer’s block”.

The problem is that if I want to fulfill the goal of
RemainComm, which is to keep communicating, I need to…well keep communicating. In
order to build relationships we all need to keep talking to each other. In my
case, one way I do that is through this blog. If I’m ever going to build a
relationship with you, I’m going to need to share more of me in the hopes of
you sharing more with me.

So, here’s the deal. I’ll keep striving to post real
actionable content but at the same time I’ll keep posting “regularly”. That may
mean shorter posts, posts that are a bit out of left field, or posts that are
insightful, thought provoking, and life changing (yeah…well…maybe). In the end
though, let’s keep talking…

Now about this whole Ellen crying on TV deal…

Emotion In the Message

I was talking with a client and friend of mine about being comfortable
speaking in an interview situation about what she does. She knows her stuff
from top to bottom but gets the heebie-jeebies when in the spotlight. We spent
a bit of time talking about why she does what she does and what it is that
drives and inspires her. Then we identified some topics that directly related
to those passions and will seek to target those topics in interviews. Needless
to say she’s feels much more comfortable. She’s more confident because she is
speaking from the heart…speaking with commitment…speaking with passion.

Bob McClain of,
forwarded an article from one of his guests, Judy Merrick-Lockett, about
emotions being the bottom line of success. The article talks about the number
one factor determining success…emotional intelligence. It’s an interesting read
and points out, as above, that your emotions are a great tool when used

Of course, there is a time and place for restraint. Let’s
not be going off on a rant about the high price of plumbers when someone asks
the way to the bathroom or starving kids in China when your kids say they’ve
had enough to eat (Mom!).  At the same
time don’t be afraid to be emotionally involved when you communicate whether in writing, during presentations, or in conversation. Too
often we get caught up in what and how something should be communicated and
miss the chance to really connect with the message and our audience. In a world
crowded with too many messages, a bit of passion and commitment will go along
way in cutting through the clutter.

Hand check. How’s your handshake?

Since I’m writing in a world where the majority of
readers are “tech savvy” it might be easy to think I’m talking about the
“handshake” between computers. You know the static filled bong, bong that
greets the dial up connection. That’s actually far from the case. I’m talking
about the good old fashioned “stick out your hand, look you straight in the
eye, firm grip, ‘damn glad to meet you’ handshake.“

The hand shake started a long time before written history so
its explanation is pretty much a crap shoot. Accepted wisdom is that it began
as a sign of “Look Sir Bob, I don’t have a weapon.” followed by Sir Bob’s,
“Huzzah! Sir Vernon, I’m not packin’ either.” However it started, whether
performed in a social or professional setting, it has evolved into a vital form
of face to face communication as well as establishing that all important
first impression.

I went to school with my son a few weeks back for
orientation and had a chance to meet quite a few young men and women who, when
I presented my hand, either stared at it like a dog looking at a ceiling fan or
placed what could easily have been mistaken for a recently deceased snake or a
chilled summer sausage in to my waiting palm.

I’ve noticed that many of our kids today have no concept of
the handshake and how much it tells someone about you. I realize this is a
broad statement. I’m sure there are parents out there who have taken the time
to teach they’re kid the importance of that first handshake, though I haven’t
met a lot of those kids. I can’t tell, has it slipped from our minds that it
might be a good idea to equip our kids with this most basic of social abilities
or is it just not important with so many other things to address in the all
too brief time that we can make an impact on our children. By the way, it
hasn’t gone unnoticed by many people that there is a fair share of
adults who could stand a refresher course in the art of the “grip and grin.”

Here’s the deal, take a minute to do the quick “hand check”
with your kids or your friends. Is the palm presented quickly and without
hesitation? Is the grip firm, but not so firm as to crush digits? Is there sincere eye
contact, not the quick glance in the general direction of the face or what lies
beyond the person’s head? If it all checks out, no need for further discussion, go about
your business. If not, take a few minutes. Encourage your handshake pupil to
not hesitate to extend a hand, look the recipient of the “shake” in the eye and
smile, firmly grip the hand, making sure to lock thumbs and shake (bonus sincerity points
for adding the 2nd hand to make the “hand sandwich”, but let’s take it
slow). Please don’t shake so hard the shoulder becomes dislodged from its
socket, just a couple of firm pumps. Gentlemen, this
includes ladies. Ladies, this includes you! Shaking hands is for everybody; unless of course you want to
curtsy. Sirs Bob and Vernon would probably dig it, but let’s save that for the odd visit with the Queen.


Today there are just too many ways of communicating without
ever meeting a person face to face. Let’s make sure when we get the opportunity
to be sure not to present each other with a lovely halibut of a handshake.

From Parlor to Palm

With the speed by which the world of communication is
changing, every once in awhile I stop and try to take it all in. This is one of
those times.

Back in 1987, while Bon Jovi was replacing Debbie Gibson on
the radio and I was just getting rid of my amber computer monitor, I remember
talking with some friends about the state of entertainment and information at a
radio gathering. We were talking about where technology had led us and where it
was headed. The days of the family huddling around the radio in the parlor were
well behind us, radio and TV had made an indelible mark on all of us. We had
all had made enough “mix tapes” and boy weren’t those CD things cool, and the
internet? Hey, it might just take off.

After many beers and some very in depth thinking (tequila
shots) we were sure that there would be one “box” where you would receive all
your entertainment and information including TV, Radio, Music, News, etc. You
know, the “console” on high-tech steroids. You remember the “console”. Radio
(AM and FM!), TV, record changer, and 8-track all in a “luxurious piece of
furniture”. Many even had a remote. Remember that loud “snap” when you pushed
the channel button. Of course that’s really where the computer is…almost.

But back in ’87 (insert “old-timer” voice here) we had no
idea that brick we called a cell phone would evolve into the very same thing
and fit into the palm of your hand. Clearly, we would have needed many more
beers to even start that discussion.

Imagine where we are going, not to mention how fast we’re
getting there. Our kids can “text” faster than they can type (and some faster
than they can think), e-mail is easier to get than a letter, pay phones are
harder to find than Debbie Gibson music, and we can listen to what we want when
we want. You can watch TV or surf the net (Of course, better TV and speedier internet
is just around the corner.). If you’re lost, just open your GPS (now I really
don’t need to stop for directions) and if someone wants to find you, your phone
can be located the next time you use it (Yeah, the Bourne Ultimatum made me a
bit paranoid. You?).

What kind of habits do you have? The phone can relay your audio
and video usage without you doing anything more than standing near a radio or TV.
Family photos, more addresses than a Rolodex the size of a Volkswagen, your
financial records, and a Village People ring tone, all right there in your
hand. You might even be reading this on your Smartphone. And have you been to a
concert lately? The folks that make Bic lighters are pissed!

Whether you think this is a great way to save time, or just
a big intrusion on your life, you have got be amazed. Of course, our kids know
no other way…imagine what they’ll be coming up with when they are hanging
around talking to friends in 2017. “Hey, remember when we use to gather the
family around the old Nokia?”

High School rocks…again!

It was the same thing every day, more than once each day. “Dad, are you sure you set the VCR right?” My family and I were on a short vacation along the North shore of Minnesota amidst the beauty of the Lake Superior (“…the big lake they call Gitchee Gumee “-Gordon Lightfoot) shoreline and my daughter’s biggest concern was High School Musical 2. Why not? She’s under 10 and the beauty and history of Split Rock Lighthouse is nothing compared to whether Troy and Gabriella will experience that first kiss (they do) or what the dance numbers will be like (they’re great).

We arrived home late on Sunday night and there was absolutely no way we were going to hit the comfort of a familiar bed without watching “the TV event of the season”
.  So for the next two hours, all of us, my wife, two kids, and me, ate pizza and watched the continuing story of Troy, Gabriella, Sharpay and the rest of the East High Wildcats. If you have kids, I’m sure you did the same thing a few nights earlier. You may have watched even if you don’t have kids. The show, like the first one, is just plain fun and 2 hours well spent.

I smiled through the whole thing (OK, maybe with the exception of the scene where Troy dances solo in the desert. That was a bit awkward.). I was smiling not only because it was a great production but, because my family was together…smiling. We enjoyed a show without threat of having to hit the remote because it was inappropriate or surfing channels because it was dull. What a great chance to spend time with the kids. We laughed and made comments to each other throughout the whole show.  Since then, my daughter and, though he would never admit it, her older brother spend a good deal of time singing and dancing around the house.

The Disney Channel has proven you don’t need to shoot something, blow something up, slime someone or make a star of a talking sponge to truly entertain and motivate a kid. 17 million people proved on a Friday night in August (and, I’m sure for many more nights to come) that “edgy”  isn’t the only thing that cuts through. Yep, a good old fashioned beach movie will entertain millions and make millions at the same time. I’m good with that.